Singing Voice Dissonance

Often there's a big difference between a person's singing voice and their speaking voice, sometimes so dramatic that listeners have a hard time believing it's the same individual. When it crops up in fiction it becomes a case of Reality Is Unrealistic: viewers often complain that a character sounds nothing like themselves while singing, even though this is perfectly plausible in real life. It's common, if not expected, for people's tone and inflection to change drastically when they sing, and professional singers are taught to stifle their accents from early on. When a character has two different voice actors; one for music and one for speech, that's a Non-Singing Voice.


Examples:

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    General 
  • A lot of English-speaking singers put on a more neutral (or Americanized) inflection when singing but still speak with their native accents. The easy answer is because it's the singing accent we're all used to hearing due to the dominance of the music industry by American acts. Take Amy Winehouse for example. In this video there's an interview cut together with samples of her songs and it barely even sounds like the same person. it goes in the opposite direction too, with many American indie acts trying to sound like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, such as The Killers, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Strokes and many others. See International Pop Song English for a description of the common variant.
    • In the case of English singers, it could be linked to the fact that at least a few, if not many, generic British English speakers feel that their accent is too 'posh'-sounding for a lot of modern music. A widespread English opinion is that a well-spoken generic English speaker sounds pretty lame if they don't neutralize their accent when they sing. Imagine the Queen trying to sing a rock number. Exactly.
    • This is less common in less mainstream music, although they are (usually) still singing in English.
    • Contemporaries of the Beatles, however, asked why they affected an American accent when singing, and of course many of their musical influences were American. Maybe "Mid-Atlantic" would be a better description: they sound American to Brits, and British to Americans. Likewise Elton John, who explained that all his influences were African American Rock and R&B artists and that's why he sang like them.
      • The Beatles themselves were asked this. Their response was that it just sounded better.
    • Many American singers drop the "r" sound on the end of syllables, a common feature of British accents. This may be just to make singing easier.
      • American English is not wholly rhotic (pronunciation of r's), though, nor does it use just one rhotic consonant. AAVE† , the most common dialect used in hip hop, rap, R&B, and other genres, is non-rhotic. Southern American English, used in Country music, is traditionally non-rhotic as well, though it has become increasingly rhotic as the scene has become dominated by singers from Oklahoma and Texas (where the accent is highly rhotic).
    • This was actually inverted by several American punk and New Wave Music bands formed during the 80's, who would affect pseudo-British accents since their influences came from British bands such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash.
    • In the UK, this a phenomenon typically associated with pop and mainstream music. Artists working in niche or alternative genres typically retain a British accent, even if they may choose to normalize in the direction of Received Pronunciation.
      • Britpop is the greatest example of this, with most of the bands retaining a strong English accent which makes it easy to identify them as English.
    • This used to be quite bad in South African music. However, various artists have (consciously, it would seem) started to reverse this; the most obvious being some instances of the vowel "a" (e.g., "can" sounds as an American would expect, but "can't" has the same "a" as in "far"). This does not apply to types of music that are seen as being inherently American, such as Rap and Hip-Hop; in those genres, South Africans will put on American accents even in works not originally destined for the international market. Some do it better than others.
    • British and Antipodean folk music generally averts this entirely, particularly if the song was written for a colloquial dialect. Adopting an American accent to sing songs such as "The Skye Boat Song" or "Come Out Ye Black and Tans" simply wouldn't make sense.
    • A lot of British ska and punk is also sung with the retained British accent; see, for instance, Madness or the Sex Pistols for a couple of famous examples. The Psychedelic Furs's Richard Butler retained his British accent while singing. So did Damon Albarn of blur fame. Mark E. Smith of The Fall has always made his Mancunian accent apparent, as has Liam Gallagher. And one can argue that one can still hear a touch of British in The Cure's Robert Smith's accent.
      • This was definitely the case with The Clash's 1977 song "I'm So Bored With the U.S.A." - which is only appropriate, seeing that the song is one big "fuck you" to America.
    • Accents should be taken with a big grain of salt when it comes to singing, as singers are trained to enunciate their vowels in a certain way that has nothing to do with any particular language or accent; or if any, Italian.
  • Countertenors are a Real Life example of this. (They're most often baritones when not singing in their falsetto.)
    • High sopranos also count. Their speaking voices are usually much lower than their singing ones.
      • They can also tend to have a habit of drawing out their notes longer than altos and mezzos. This often does not translate into their normal speaking voices.
    • As do low basses; most do not have particularly low speaking voices.
  • Go to enough karaoke nights at bars and you'll see plenty of this.
  • Death Metal musicians sing with a MIGHTY GROWL, so hearing them talk with a normal voice is rather odd if you've gotten used to their growley voice. Especially if they have a high pitched voice.
    • Heck, any user of Harsh Vocals invokes this because their screaming voice and speaking voice are bound to be very different. Justified because a different part of the larynx is used to create the sound.
  • Many Country Music artists adopt a Southern twang even if they're not native to the Southern U.S.… or, not even native to the U.S. at all, in some cases like Keith Urban (born in New Zealand, raised in Australia, moved to the U.S. in the early 1990s) or Shania Twain (born in Ontario).

    Anime & Manga 

    Comedy 
  • Chris Rock has a loud, abrasive, raspy voice when he's doing stand up but when he speaks in a regular conversation he's very soft spoken.

    Films — Animation 
  • Many Disney films have this issue, such as The Little Mermaid. Jodi Benson provides the voice of Ariel throughout the film, but is often for two separate actresses playing the same role.
  • The Lion King
  • Oliver & Company deliberately averted Non-Singing Voice by hiring actual singers Billy Joel and Bette Midler to play Dodger and Georgette... and Dodger ends up sounding like a completely different character when he switches from speaking to singing.
  • In the Brazilian version of Disney's version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frollo was voiced by a normal voice actor, but during the singing scenes they hired a professional opera singer. The difference between voices is blatant.
  • In Toy Story 2, Wheezy gets a new squeaker that allows him to sing like Robert Goulet.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Spaceballs, Princess Vespa is a baritone.
  • In Love Actually, Prime Minister David is shocked to hear his driver's beautiful, operatic rendition of "Good King Wenceslaus."
  • Averted by Hilary Duff, of all people - in War, Inc. her character not only speaks with a Central Asian accent but sings with one as well.
  • Was a gag in Coming to America with the song "She's Your Queen To Be".
  • John C. Reilly's character in The Extra Man "sounds almost human when he sings".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played for Laughs and lampshaded in Chuck when John Casey reveals that he was a choir boy.
  • On an episode of Cheers, Lilith takes singing lessons. The gang at the bar are surprised when she sings a sweet lullabye to Frederick.
  • James Marsters slips into more of an American accent during his "Once More With Feeling" solo in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    Music 
  • Milli Vanilli is a subversion of sorts. Many people at the time noted that while frontmen Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan appeared to sing and rap in perfect American English, they actually barely knew English at all, and their speaking voices were VERY heavily accented (French for Fab, German for Rob). Infamously, it turned out "their" singing voices were literally completely different - they were lipsynching to the voices of American-born musicians.
  • Gorillaz singer 2D is voiced by two different people, and the group is often met with complaints that his speaking voice is too different from his vocals for him to be able to sing in the albums.
  • Claudio Sanchez's high-pitched, almost feminine singing voice contrast with his softer, deeper speech.
  • Adele is known for her powerful singing voice, but speaks with a sort of shrill, slurring East London accent.
  • Rihanna suffers from this. Her beautiful singing voice contrasts with her heavily Barbados-accented speech. Her speaking voice is not ugly by any means, but it is hard to understand for people not used to the accent.
    • Some of her early hits also showed the accent, so this one can probably be explained by voice training.
  • Shrieking metal singers also have this, but it's usually their speaking voice which is more pleasant than their singing voice. Examples include Alice Cooper,Rob Halford, Dani Filth and King Diamond.
  • Jim Nabors was famous for this. As Gomer Pyle, he spoke with as typical southern drawl, but sang beautifully.
  • Olivia Newton-John sings with an American accent instead of Australian.
  • So does Keith Urban.
  • Prince has a speaking voice that's considerably and quite noticeably deeper than what we usually hear him singing with.
  • Céline Dion's French-language songs are usually sung with the barest Québecois accent. On the other side, Céline's natural speech is... well, in the words of humorist Anthony Kavannagh:
    Kavannagh: When Céline speaks, your reaction is... A: "What a beautiful woman!", B: "What a beautiful voice!", C: "What's she saying again?"
    (Audience unequivocally shouts "C!!!")
    Kavannagh: Oh yeah, we in Québec have trouble with that, too.
  • Singer Akhenaton from French rap group IAM has a Southern French accent you could cut with an axe when speaking, but not in his songs. Which are, naturally, mostly spoken. Go figure.
  • Country Music artist Blaine Larsen has a high, nasal speaking voice, but a rather deep, rich singing voice.
  • Mariah Carey has a deep speaking voice but her singing voice is high pitched.
  • Lead singer Bert Mccracken of The Used has a harsh speaking voice (possibly due to years of smoking) but his singing voice is relatively high and clean
  • Julee Cruise has a soft, airy singing voice, while her speaking voice is significantly lower and raspier. This is most evident in her song "You're Staring At Me", which starts out with a short spoken word monologue.
  • Billie Joe Armstrong speaks with a normal California accent and sings with an English-sounding one - not surprising considering some of his biggest influences are British punk bands.
  • Christina Aguilera initially startled people with this - her speaking voice is generally on the higher-pitched, softer, girly side. Her singing voice tends toward "deep bellow".
  • Compare James Blunt and his depressing singing tone with the enthuastic voice he speaks with.
  • Freddie Mercury of Queen had a rather baritone speaking voice, but a high angelic tenor when singing.
  • Listen to Nelly Furtado speak, and then listen to her sing. It's hard to believe it's the same woman sometimes.
  • When Kelly Clarkson speaks she sounds like a perky white girl from Texas. But then she sings like this. Before being on American Idol she was trying to make it in LA, sending demo tapes to record companies who were surprised to see that she was white when they met her.
  • Jackie Evancho sounds like a normal girl when she talks but when she sings, she sounds like an opera singer.
    • Ditto for Katie Stelmanis, who was in fact classically trained.
  • Christian Alvestam has a deep voice and a heavy Swedish accent when he speaks, but when he sings, his voice is not only much, much higher, but there is also no accent at all.
  • Namgar speaks in a soft, squeaky voice, but sings in a much deeper voice, as is the custom with Buryat-Mongolian folk music.
  • Ozzy Osbourne is practically unintelligible when speaking.
  • Joy Division's Ian Curtis sang in a deep baritone (except in the band's earliest recordings), and without much of an accent (such that he was frequently compared to Jim Morrison), but in the few recordings of his speaking voice he sounds quite high pitched and has an even stronger Mancunian/Macclesfield accent than the other three members of the band.
  • Chino Moreno has a boyish, soothing tenor singing voice, but his speaking voice is so much deeper it's hard to believe it's the same guy.
  • Former american idol contestant Colton Dixon speaks with a light Southern accent, but his singing voice sounds rather Australian.
  • Florence Welch, while not a change in tone or accent, has a powerful singing voice that is in stark contrast to her typically soft, timid speaking voice.
  • Axl Rose sings in a yowling, screeching high tenor, but his speaking voice — especially at times when he's been relaxed — is almost a bass. The auditory whiplash can be a little jarring.
  • Shirley Manson retains her Scottish accent speaking, but not singing (except a word every now and then, such as the Title Drops of "Stupid Girl" and "Run Baby Run").
  • Jimmy Somerville of Bronski Beat sings in an angelic countertenor (not necessarily falsetto) voice, but sounds like an average Scotsman when speaking.
  • Little Boots has a chirpy pop princess singing voice, but speaks with a deeper Lancashire accent.
  • R&B singer Michel'le has a squeaky, high-pitched speaking voice (similar to that of comedienne Felicia Michaels), in stark contrast to her powerful singing voice.
  • Art Garfunkel's singing voice is a sweet, high tenor. His speaking voice sounds like Dustin Hoffman.
  • While Cheryl Cole and Nadine Coyle of Girls Aloud have lovely voices when they sing, Cheryl's Geordie accent and Nadine's Northern Irish accent are thick enough to warrant subtitles when they speak.
  • Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts has a fairly normal speaking voice (as heard in this radio interview), but a very high, whiny, and nasal singing voice.
  • Tony Harnell, the former vocalist of TNT, has a very deep and smooth-sounding speaking voice, but he can reach an upper B flat 5 with ease. The best part? He's 50 years old and he still does it just as easily.
  • Mnemic's lead vocalist Guillaume Bideau. Compare his speaking (skip to his part to hear him) to his singing.
  • Till Lindemann of Rammstein has a positively mellow speaking voice to contrast his furious growling in-song.
  • Much like the above-mentioned Till Lindemann, Marilyn Manson also is a much, much calmer sounding person when he's not singing. Although, the drugs likely were partially responsible for that one.
  • Joakim Brodén, singer of Sabaton, has a speaking voice which is pretty much the posterchild for "Swedish male, mid-thirties, working class background", with a slight Dalecarlian accent. Interview in English Interview in Swedish. His singing voice, on the other hand...
  • Colin Hay of Men At Work is a Scottish immigrant to Australia, with natural Scottish singing and speaking accents. It can be, as a result, hard to tell he sings in a new wave band that comes from the Land Down Under if judging from his vocals alone.
  • blur's lead singer Damon Albarn sings in a regular tenor in most of the early and middle Blur songs, but his speaking voice is significantly deeper.
  • Shakira deserves some mention here. Hearing her speak, you wouldn't expect the passionate, throaty, thick growl she sings with.
  • Toni Braxton does have a sexy, low, somewhat-deep speaking voice. It's quite soft, too. But it's vastly different from the thick, smokey, alto purr she's famous for.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Hallbjörg Bjarnadóttir Nielsen.
  • Petri Lindroos of Ensiferum is a very, very effeminate-looking guy, so you'd think he'd have a high, soft voice, right? Wrong.
    • Then again, this trope can be applied to a lot of metal singers/screamers. Alexi Laiho is another good example.
  • '80s R&B/pop singer Billy Ocean has a noticeable Trinidadian accent, but sings with an American accent.
  • Katy Steele, the lead singer of Australian band Little Birdy has a high-pitched girly singing voice (with little accent), but her speaking voice, whilst still fairly high-pitched, is less girly, and she has a lot more of an Australian accent.
  • Joss Stone sings with a contralto American accent, so it's surprising to hear a high-pitched girly British accent come out of her when she speaks.
  • Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste has a rich, smooth singing voice quite different from the soft, lispy tone he talks with.
  • R&B singer Ashanti speaks with a heavy, soft New York accent, in a lower tone. Her singing voice is far on the high-pitched, girly side, is slightly nasal, and she favors belting.
  • Sarah McLachlan's speaking voice is pleasant, if not ordinary, a bit low-pitched. She's best-known for her beautiful, ethereal singing voice, which sits a fair deal higher.
  • Jon Anderson of Yes has a very high, ethereal tenor singing voice but has a very rural and Northern English accent in his speaking voice.
  • Elvis Costello is famous for his nasal, almost American-sounding singing voice; when he speaks, though, he sounds like an average Englishman.
  • When you listen to Seether's Shaun Morgan in an interview, it's quite jarring to hear his relatively calm, South African-accented speaking voice contrast with his harsh, Kurt Cobain-esque singing voice.
  • The Tiger Lillies are probably one of the only groups to ever cause this trope multiple different ways. Martyn Jaques, the main singer, is known for using an operatic soprano for his songs, but of course he doesn't sound like that when he talks. But he also uses other voices to sing with, such as a guttural growl (Miracle Cure) and a slightly more nasal tone (Angry), sometimes flip-flopping between vocal styles in the middle of a song.
  • Something For Kate's Paul Dempsey speaks with a smooth tenor Australian accent, but when he sings, it's more of a gritty baritone akin to Gavin Rossdale.
  • Neil Young is known for his very high, reedy, strident tenor voice; his speaking voice is far deeper.

    Web Comic 

    Web Original 
  • Lewis Lovhaug. His in-character voice is rather high and nasal, but when he does a video out-of-character, his more natural voice is deeper. He also has a rather strong, not-nasal singing voice when he sings in-character (tenor) or as Harvey Finevoice (baritone).
  • Doug Walker has a rather high-pitched speaking voice (which goes even higher-pitched when The Nostalgia Critic goes especially crazy), but when he sings (as seen in the TGWTG Year One Brawl, and the Moulin Rouge! review), it is a beautiful operatic tenor though subverted at the time as he can sing with his normal voice which is more Musical theater tenor as opposed to his opera singing voice.
  • Jon Jafari has a speaking voice that could be compared to Curly, and he can be very shrill when he wants to be. Not to mention his notorious "ECH ECH" Catch Phrase/Verbal Tic//what part of his throat does he even make that vocalization in, which some of his fans even find to be the Most Annoying Sound. However, he studied musical theater, and when he wants to sing, he doesn't just do it well—he does it operatically.

    Western Animation 
  • Mikey from Recess had an absurdly deep, baritone singing voice for a child in Grade 4, also provided by Robert Goulet. It's used as a plot point in one episode, where Mikey reveals that he can also disguise his voice by speaking with his singing voice.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In episode "Homer of Seville," when Homer is lying on his back, his singing voice is majestic and beautiful, though his speaking voice (and his singing voice while upright) is the same old Homer.
    • In another episode, "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", it's revealed that Barney is a ridiculously good tenor.
    • From the episode "Bart's Girlfriend":
      (Bart hears a lovely female singing voice)
      Bart: Jessica!
      Lisa: Bart, be strong! You don't need that little hellcat.
      Bart: Oh, Lis, she's already drawing me to her with her beautiful siren song.
      (Bart opens the church's door and sees that the voice is coming from none other than Ned Flanders; Bart shudders)
      Bart: That's very disturbing.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Candace experiences this in the episode "Jerk de Soleil", when, due to an allergic reaction, she sings in a deep, raspy male voice.
    • Not to mention Ferb, who rarely speaks, but whose singing voice is played by different voice actors.
  • Finn from Adventure Time has the ability to sing in an Auto Tuned version of his voice actor's voice, given that he once swallowed a computer, though he only does it sparingly during the show's later seasons.
  • An episode of Hey Arnold! reveals that Mr. Hyunh, whose speaking voice has a very heavy Vietnamese accent, sounds just like Randy Travis when he sings.
  • Jem and the Holograms featured Kimber singing a duet with Stormer of The Misfits. It was a good song, but unfortunately, they chose the breathy voice of an adult woman, whereas Kimber is a high-pitched-talking teenager.
  • Cornwallis Hanky from South Park has a tenor voice while singing.
  • Paul Frees and Lance Percival as the speaking voices of The Beatles vs. the group's actual singing voices. In a glaring zig-zag (and bad bit of animation direction), John's opening of the song "Mr. Moonlight" (in the episode of the same name) is coming out of Paul's mouth.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Rarity's singing voice (Kazumi Evans) sounds very different from her Non-Singing Voice (Tabitha St. Germain).
    • In "Winter Wrap-Up", Ashleigh Ball's singing as Applejack and Rainbow Dash hardly sounds like either's speaking voice.
  • Zorak from Space Ghost and its various [adult swim] spin-offs had this sometimes, depending on the adaptation. He sounds like his normal self in this duet with Brak. But here, he has a heavenly singing voice.